Down and Dirty? Way to Go

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If Guy Ritchie had filmed his own wedding, it might have looked like this: rapid cuts of swank guests and strewn rose petals, 360[degrees] swirls as the bride descends the staircase, a low-angle shot of the groom in his kilt, a killer closeup of Sting's molars as he sings Ave Maria and--big finish--a plateful of haggis thrown at the camera. The whole film would be very loud and would last about six seconds.

To the world, Ritchie is Madonna's new husband. But cinephiles know him as the creator of try-anything violent crime farces. A couple dozen hard guys plot stupid heists, shout droll obscenities and, for punctuation, kill people. Imagine the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera, only everybody's packing. Comic congestion is Ritchie's game; he's like a Preston Sturges who's done time.

Snatch ups the ante and goes international. This time the Cockneys and Afro-Brits are joined by crooks Russian, Hasidic-American and crypto-Irish Gypsy (a funny, blarney-spewing Brad Pitt). The big prize is a diamond the size of Ritchie's narrative ambitions. And the winners? They're the few blokes left alive at the end.

The story motors like a car driven by a chatty maniac who somehow stays on the road. The camera is just as agitated but with less reason; the pixilated imagery is always in danger of sabotaging the comedy. So, O.K., Ritchie mistakes flash for style. Perhaps that's the price you pay for storytelling exuberance. If he keeps making films as down and witty as Snatch, we may learn to forgive him.